My father kneeled in chicken manure and drew a black streak with a pencil he'd taken from the wall of the poultry house. "See this line? It represents how much your mother and I work to pay our debts and provide for this family."
"And these," he continued, drawing lines further up, "show how much more we need to work to buy new clothes, go out for dinners, or take a vacation."
I was confused. We didn't take many vacations.
On our family farm in Alabama, my dad's work ethic seemed oppressive, almost unnatural. An understaffed entrepreneur in a cowboy hat, he toiled around the clock, every day of the week. And whenever my brothers and I weren't in school, we'd be beside him, building fences or feeding cattle rather than sleeping in or exploring with friends.
As a child, I resented the early mornings, deferred trips, and hot Southern sun. But as an adult, my dad's example of focused work and calculated risk taking inspires me to positively impact others as a professional, father, husband, and man.
In my life, there will be many more lines to draw. Thankfully, I know what a leader with a pencil can create.